Skip to main content

Full text of "Roadside songs of Tuscany"

See other formats


giX^adside Songs of Tuscany. 
















4fo^^''^^f^^ Mj^aAa-Os-^ 




Of the Field of the Alder-Trees, 

Roadside Songs of Tuscany. 













'T^HESE songs and hymns of the poor people have 
■*- been collected, little by little, in the course of 
a great many years which I have passed in constant 
intercourse with the Tuscan contadini. They are but 
the siftings, so to say, of hundreds and hundreds 
which I have heard and learnt, mostly from old people : 
many of them have never, so far as I know, been 
written down before, and others it would be impossible 
now to find. A great many were taught me by the 
celebrated improvisatrice, Beatrice Bernardi of Pian degli 
Ontani, whose portrait I have placed in the beginning 
of the book, — one of the most wonderful women 
whom I ever knew. This Beatrice was the daughter 
of a stonemason at Melo, a little village of not very 
easy access on the mountain side above Cutigliano ; 
and her mother having died in Beatrice's infancy, she 
became, from early childhood, the companion and 

2 The AtUhors Pre/ace. 

assistant of her father, accompanying him to his winter 
labours in the Maremma, and, as she grew larger, 
helping him at his work by bringing him stones for 
the walls and bridges which he built, carrying them 
balanced on her head. She had no education hi the 
common sense of the word, never leariiing even the 
alphabet,^ but she had a wonderful memory, and could 
sing or recite long pieces of poetry. As a girl, she 
used in summer to follow the sheep, with her distaff 
at her waist; and would fill up her hours of solitude 
by singing such ballads as " The war of St. Michael 
and the dragon ! The creation of the world ! ! and the 
Fall of man ! ! !" or *'The history of San Pellegrino, son 
of Romano, King of Scotland " ; and now, in her old 
age, she knows nearly all the New Testament history, 
and much of the Old, in poetical form. She was very 
beautiful then, they say, with curling hair, and won- 
derful inspired looking eyes, and there must always 
have been a great charm in her voice and smile ; so 
it is no great wonder that Matteo Bernardi, much 
older than herself, and owner of a fine farm at Pian 
degli Ontani, and of many cattle, chose rather to 
marry the shepherd girl who could sing so sweetly, 
* Italics mine. Compare Fors on education. No. 94. 

The Author s Preface. 3 

than another woman whom his family Hked better, 
and who might perhaps have brought him more share 
of worldly prosperity. On Beatrice's wedding day, 
according to the old custom of the country, one or 
two poets improvised verses suitable to the occasion, 
and as she listened to them, suddenly she felt in 
herself a new power, and began to sing the poetry 
which was then born in her mind, and having once 
begun, found it impossible to stop, and kept on singing a 
great while ; so that all were astonished, and her uncle, 
who was present, said, " Beatrice, you have deceived 
me ! If I had known what you were, I would have 
put you in a convent." From that time forth she was 
the great poetess of all that part of the country, and 
was sent for to sing and recite at weddings and other 
festivals for many miles around ; and perhaps she might 
have been happy ; but her husband's sister, Barbara, 
who lived in the house, and who had not approved 
of the marriage, tried very wickedly to set her brother 
against his wife, and to some extent succeeded. He 
tried to stop her singing, which seemed to him a sort 
of madness, and at times he treated her with great 
unkindness ; but sing she must, and sing she did, for 
it was what the Lord made her for ; and she lived 

4 The Author s Preface. 

down all their dislike ; her husband loved her in his 
old age ; and Barbara, whom she nursed with motherly 
kindness through a long and distressing illness, was 
her friend before she died. Beatrice is still living, at 
a great age now, but still retaining much of her old 
beauty and brilliancy, and is waited on and cared for 
with much affection by a pretty grand-daughter bearing 
the same name as herself. 

As for the other songs, I have explained in the 
notes which I have written under them all the little 
that I know about them. The tunes, with the 
exception of those which I found printed in the 
Corona di Sacre Canzoni, I learned from the poor 
people them.selves, and wrote down as well as I 
could. Most of them (though they sound very sweet 
to me, bringing back the very feeling of the air 
in the fir-woods, or on the farms, where I have 
been used to hear them) are nothing more than 
plaintive monotonous little chants ; but a few of the 
airs are very pretty ; the accompaniments have been 
nearly all composed by Signora Sestilia Poggiali. The 
pictures sufficiently explain themselves ; they are like- 
nesses, nearly all, of the country people in their 
every day clothes and with their every day surround- 

The Author s Preface. 5 

ings ; while as to the ornamenting of the pages, it 
seemed natural that road-side songs should have borders 
of road-side flowers. Of the four long ballads, the 
" Madonna and the Gipsy," '* St. Christopher," " Sta. 
Zita," and "The Samaritan," I have put in only one, 
the Samaritan, at full length, and of St. Christopher 
I have left out all the last half, which describes 
his preaching and his martyrdom, both because it was 
so very long, and because the details were so painful. 
Already the old songs are fast being forgotten ; many of 
them it would be impossible now to find, and others 
are sung only by a few aged people who will soon be 
gone, or in some remote corners of the mountains ; and 
in a few years they will probably be heard no more. 
They have served their time, and many people laugh 
at them now, and some have told me that I should 
have done better to spend my time and work on 
something more valuable ; but in their day they have 
been a comfort to many. Labouring people have sung 
them at their work, and have felt their burdens 
lightened; they have brightened the long winter 
evenings of the poor women in lonely houses high 
among the mountains, when they have been sitting 
over their fires of fir-branches, with their children 

6 The Autho7's Preface, 

about them, shut in by the snows outside, and with 
their men all away In the Maremma : and I have 
known those who have been helped to bear sickness 
and trouble, and even to meet death itself, with more 
courage, by verses of the simple old hymns. I have 
heard Beato Leonardo's " Hymn to the Cross " sung in 
chorus by a party of pilgrims, men and women 
together, going to the mountain of San Pellegrino 
on a still moonlight night in August, when it has 
sounded to me as sweet as anything that ever I 
heard. It seems to me that there are others who 
will collect and preserve the thoughts of the rich 
and great ; but I have wished to make my book all 
of poor people's poetry, and who knows but It may 
contain a word of help or consolation for some poor 
soul yet ? However that may be, I have done my 
best to save a little of what is passing away. 


Florence, Piazza Santa Maria Novella, 
December 25//;, 1882. 


Brantwood, Jan. 1st, 1884. 

/^F the circumstances under which this work came 
^-^ into my possession, account is given in my report 
to the St. George's Guild for the year 1883; it has 
been since a matter of much debate with me how to 
present it most serviceably to those whom it is calcu- 
lated to serve ; and what I am about to do with it, 
though the best I can think of, needs both explanation 
and apology at some length. 

The book consists of 109 folio leaves, on every one 
of which there is a drawing, either of figures, or flowers, 
or both. To photograph all, would of course put the 
publication entirely out of the reach of people of moder- 
ate means ; while to print at once the text of the songs 
and music, without the illustrations, would have deprived 
them of what to my mind Is their necessary interpre- 
tation ; they could not be in what is best of them 

8 The Editor s Preface, 

understood, — even a little understood, — without the pic- 
tures of the people who love them. I have determined 
therefore to photograph, for the present, twenty of 
the principal illustrations, and to print, together with 
them, so much of the text as immediately relates to 
their subjects, adding any further elucidation of them 
which may be in my own power. But as soon as I 
have got this principal part of the book well in course 
of issue, I will print separately all the music, and the 
little short songs called Rispetti, in their native Italian, 
and Francesca's English. Meantime, I have presented 
to Oxford the twelve principal drawings of those which 
will be published in photograph, and four others to the 
St. George's Museum at Sheffteld. Twenty-five of the 
leaves of text, illustrated with flowers only, are placed 
at Oxford for temporary use and examination. These, 
as well as the greater part of the remainder of the 
volume, will be distributed between my schools at Ox- 
ford, Girton College at Cambridge, the St. George's 
Museum, and Whitelands College at Chelsea, as soon as 
I have prepared the text for publication, but this work 
of course necessitates for some time the stay of the draw- 
ings beside me. 

They are admirably, in most cases, represented by 

The Editor s Preface, 9 

Mr. Hollyer's photographs : one or two only of the 
more highly finished ones necessarily become a little 
dark, and in places lose their clearness of line, but, 
as a whole, they are quite wonderful in fidelity and 
clearness of representation. Of the drawings themselves 
I will leave the reader to form his own estimate ; 
merely praying him to observe that Miss Alexander's 
attention is always fixed primarily on expression, and 
on the accessary circumstances which enforce it ; that 
in order to let the parts of the design on which 
its sentiment depends be naturally seen and easily felt, 
she does not allow any artifices of composition, or 
charms of light and shade, which would disturb the 
simplicity of her appeal to the feelings ; and that 
in this restriction, observed through many years, she 
has partly lost, herself, the sense of light and shade, 
and sees everything in local colour only : other faults 
there are, of which, however, be they in the reader's 
estimate few or many, he may be assured that none 
are of the least weight in comparison with the vir- 
tues of the work ; and farther, that they ought to be 
all to him inoffensive faults, because they are not 
caused either by affectation, indolence, or egoism. All 
fatal faults in art that might have been otherwise good, 

lo The Editor s Preface. 

arise from one or other of these three things, — either 
from the pretence to feel what we do not, — the in- 
dolence in exercises necessary to obtain the power of 
expressing the truth, — or the presumptuous insistance 
upon, and indulgence in, our own powers and delights, 
because they are ours, and with no care or wish that 
they should be useful to other people, so only they be 
admired by them. From all these sources of guilty 
error Miss Alexander's work is absolutely free. It is 
sincere and true as the sunshine ; industrious, with an 
energy as steady as that by which a plant grows in 
spring ; modest and unselfish, as ever was good servant's 
work for a beloved Master. 

In its relation to former religious art of the same 
faithfulness, it is distinguished by the faculty and habit 
of realization which belongs to all Pre-Raphaelism, 
whether English or American ; that is to say, it 
represents any imagined event as far as possible in 
the way it must have happened, and as it looked, 
when happening, to people who did not then know 
its Divine import ; but with this further distinction 
from our English school of Pre-Raphaelism, that Miss 
Alexander represents everything as it would have hap- 
pened in Tuscany to Tuscan peasants, while our Eng- 

The Editors Preface. ii 

lish Pre-Raphaelites never had the boldness to con- 
ceive Christ or His mother as they would have looked, 
with English faces, camping on Hampstead Heath, or 
confused among a crowd in the Strand : and therefore, 
never brought the vision of them close home to the 
livingf Enoflish heart, as Francesca is able to show the 
face of her Lord to the hill peasants at the well of 
I'Abetone.* The London artists may answer with jus- 
tice, that the actual life of I'Abetone is like that of 
Palestine ; but that London life is not : to whom it 
may be again answered, and finally, that they have no 
business whatever to live in London, and that no 
noble art v/ill ever be there possible. But Francesca's 
method of using the materials round her, be it noted, 
is also wholly different from theirs. They, either 

for convenience, fancy, or feelings' sake, use, for their 
types of saint or heroine, the model who happens 
that day to be disengaged, or the person in whom they 
themselves take an admirine or affectionate interest. 
The first heard organ-grinder of the morning, hastily 
silenced, is hired for St. Jerome, and St. Catherine 

* Christ and the Woman of Samaria (at Oxford). See close 
of the notice of Lucia, at p. 22 below. 

12 The Editors Preface. 

or the Madonna represented by the pretty acquaint- 
ance, or the amiable wife. But Francesca, knowing the 
histories, and versed in the ways of the people round 
her for many a year, chooses for the type of every 
personage in her imagined picture, some one whose 
circumstances and habitual tone of mind are actually 
like those related and described in the legend to be 
illustrated. The servant saint, Zita of Lucca, is repre- 
sented by a perfectly dutiful and happy farm-servant, 
who has in reality worked all her life without wages ; 
and the gipsy who receives the forlorn Madonna in 
Egypt, is drawn from a woman of gipsy blood who ac- 
tually did receive a wounded boy, supposed to be at 
the point of death, into her house, when all the other 
women in the village held back ; and nursed him, and 
healed him. 

Perceiving this to be Miss Alexander's constant method 
of design, and that, therefore, the historic candour of the 
drawings was not less than their religious fervour, I 
asked her to furnish me, for what use I might be able 
to make of them, with such particulars as she knew, or 
might with little pains remember, of the real lives and 
characters of the peasants whom she had taken for her 
principal models. The request was fortunate ; since in 

The Editor s Preface. 13 

a very few weeks after it had been presented, Miss 
Alexander sent me a little white book stamped with the 
red Florentine lily, containing, in the prettiest conceivable 
manuscript, a series of biographical sketches, which are to 
me, in some ways, more valuable than the book which 
they illustrate ; or rather, form now an essential part of, 
without which many of its highest qualities and gravest 
lessons must have remained unacknowledged and unac- 

I take upon myself therefore, unhesitatingly, what 
blame the reader may think my due, for communicating 
to him the substance of these letters, without reserve. I 
print them, in Francesca's own colloquial, or frankly epis- 
tolary, terms, as the best interpretation of the legends re- 
vived for us by her, in these breathing images of existent 
human souls. 

Of the literary value of the songs themselves, it is not 
necessary for me to express any opinion, since Miss Alex- 
ander claims for them only the interest of having been 
practically useful to the persons for whom they were 
composed ; and, in her translation, aims only at rendering 
their meaning clear with a pleasant musical order and pro- 
priety of cadence. 

But it is a point deserving of some attentive notice, 

14 The Editor s Preface. 

that this extremely simple and unexcited manner of verse, 
common to both the ballads and their translations, results 
primarily from the songs being intended for, and received 
as, the relation of actual facts necessary to be truly known ; 
and not at all as the expression of sentiment, fancy, or 

And they correspond in this function, and In their resul- 
tant manner, very closely to early Greek ballad in the lays 
of Orpheus and Hesiod, — and indeed to Greek epic verse 
altogether, in that such song is only concerned with the 
visible works and days of gods and men ; and will neither 
stoop, nor pause, to take colour from the singer's personal 
feelings. I received a new lesson myself only a day or 
two since respecting the character of that early Greek 
verse, from a book I was re-reading after twelve years 
keeping it by me to re-read, — Emile Boutmy's ' Philosophic 
de r Architecture en Grece,' — in which (p. 121) is this not- 
able sentence. "L'un des traits les plus frappants de la 
phrase homerique, c'est que Vomission et le sotis-entendii y 
sont sans exemple. Je ne crois pas qu'on puisse signaler 
dans riliade ou dans I'Odyssee une ellipse, ou une en- 
thymeme." But the difference between explicit and undis- 
turbed narrative or statement of emotion, in this kind, and 
the continual hinting, suggesting, mystifying, and magni- 

The Editors Preface. 15 

fying, of recent pathetic poetry, (and I believe also of 
Gothic as opposed to Greek or pure Latin poetry,) requires 
more thought, and above all, more illustration, than I have 
time at present to give ; and I am content to leave the 
verses preserved in this book to please whom they may 
please, without insisting upon any reasons why they should ; 
and for myself, satisfied in my often reiterated law of right 
work, that it is the expression of true pleasure in right 
things — and thankful that, much though I love my Byron, 
the lives of Saints may be made vivid enough to me by 
less vigorous verses than are necessary to adorn the bio- 
graphy of Corsairs and Giaours. 


A pilgrim poor to Zita came one day. 

All faint and thirsty with the summer heat. 

And for a little water did her pray — 

*Twas close beside the well they chanced to meet — 

She feared to give it, yet what could she say ? 
She answered humbly, and with words discreet : 

" I wish, my brother, I could give thee wine, 

But if the water please thee, that is thine." 

This said, she drew some water from the well. 
And with a cross the pitcher did she sign, 

"Oh, Lord," she said, while low her sweet voice fell, 
" Let not this water hurt him, he is. Thine." 

The pilgrim, as he stooped to drink, could tell 
Her thought before she spoke, I wish 'twere wine. 

He tasted, then astonished raised his head, 

" But truly, this is precious wine," he said. 

Accostandosi a Zita un pellegrino 

Che per il caldo lui gran sete aveva. 

Ognun di loro al pozzo era vicino, 
E Zita che dell' acqua ne traeva, 

Chiedendole da ber quel poverino, 
Ed umilmente Zita rispondeva, 

Aspetta, fratel mio, la vo a cavare 

Perch6 del vino non ti posso dare. 

Volgendo Zita I'orazione a Dio 

F^ sopra I'acqua il segno della Croce ; 

Che fosse vino avrei molto desio, 
Disse, bevete, a lui con bassa voce. 

Orando Zita disse — Signer mio, 
Fate quest' acqua al povero non nuoce ! 

Cosi comincio a ber quel pellegrino : 

Gustando disse, E prezioso vino. 


um (jcoi Ld JjiiDx. cunu oru aati 
jtcn aiiOtU %'ali.x dultuxpKuj 

imtMuL tjwii(h't)iuvUUSuim.rn*x, rimC 
01 a lilXU, iC^ain duL iuapxaju 

_ Vnscicse otsult Uit %mi [hujCruxnuA fo mul. . 

X kJish.muOwOiti.^[hub%^mt,; 
DiiL il du. Vctftt pitast dut I Owl i% Uiint . 

L his f^fudi ttit '/itk/'Somi %/atix.^Liim Ou, xJtlt, 
fi-}uL kJifrua cif ss tnLpUchu d'lA She^siAn. 

VhMjind. fiht iaicL, ii.wif (joOhivSxJut: Vokipll 
JLS(( tioC Uiii Kuk\ luiiclum,ru ii frunt: 

•JP/tt pi^7wn/, cu nt- ircofitd & -hinJc, coM (ilL 
, for Uiciuijitbttoit/sni. spolu , / li^iift, t 'itMit yjitu 

lU CoiUd. UitTu uUbruikuL iaiudhUtiuucL: 

HutlxmuOtiiUpvuieui t-int ' tu-aaid,. 

H ttOetSmdm a ^Ha un pJl(, 


Ognun 3i lev cj i 'f *^ tia Vit'mc, 
€C iZliladu. (ku'aaiiui7u f^nfya 
iiiiieainai U 'n lt\ cud pmmw, 
€(,(i Uniiliricnk -/jila. luocnAty'a. 
^MsMlla. flnltl rtuc, in vc a (niiait 
rtiche M I tru }un li pcivi Aiu, . , 

^ V'tSBfrUi I luaiui ilbCM 

. ouwic/ua X)lO 

. , S^l / lUiUM illtCl^tlDdcILl LlOU: 

Cm J(,As{ yhJc av'tu Incut Jew . 
ll)iw.('niU.a lui cen fn^^^a \^(te  

It oil quid (umut ai pcJtic nm tutcuL. 
C-05i 'Cimiiitica 6(.l ami utlatniiu: 

The Miracle at the Wei 


The Story of Lucia. 

In reading the legends of the saints, the reader who 
cares for the truth that remains in them must always 
observe first, whether the saint is only a symbolic one, 
like St. Sophia and St. Catherine ; or a real one, like 
St. Genevieve and St. Benedict. In the second place, if 
they are real people, he must observe whether the 
miracles are done by them, or for them. Legends of 
consciously active miracles are rare : the modesty of the 
great saints prevents them from attempting such, and all 
the loveliest and best witnessed stories are of miracles 
done for them or through their ministry, often without 
their knowledge, — like the shining of Moses' face, or 
the robing of St. Martin by the angels (* Bible of Amiens,* 
chap. L). 

Now Santa Zita, " St. Maid," was a real, living, hard- 
worked maid-servant, in the town you still know as a 

1 8 Roadside Songs of Tuscany. 

great oil mart, in the 13th century. As real a person as 
your own kitchen-maid, and not a bit better, probably, 
than yours is, if she's a good one ; — only, living in the 
most vital and powerful days of Christianity, she was made 
to feel and know many things which your kitchen-maid 
can never feel, nor even hear of ; and therefore, having 
also extremely fine intellect as well as heart, she became 
a very notable creature indeed, and one of wide practical 
power throughout Europe ; for though she lived and 
died a servant of all work at a clothier's, — thirty years 
after her death, Dante acknowledges her the patron saint 
of her city : and she has ever since been the type of 
perfectness in servant life, to the Christian world. 

More of her — indeed, all that is truly known of her — 
you shall hear In the next number of this book : 
I have here only to observe to you, that this, her 
principal active miracle during life, done at the well, is 
done unconsciously, and by her customary and natural 
prayer, — answered only, this time, in an unexpected 

Of such prayer, and its possible answer, we will think 
further after reading all her legendary history : but in 
the meantime, you must hear the quite plain and 
indisputable story of the girl who is drawn to represent 
her in Francesca's picture : which Francesca herself tells 
us, as follows : — 

We come now to Sta. Zita, of whom the original 

The Story of Lticz'a. 19 

.is Lucia Santi, a young married woman of " Le Motte," 
a place so named on account of the frequent land- 
slides which take place in the neighbourhood. I always 
wonder why any one ever built the house in which 
she lives, which is in the very bed of a rocky stream, 
at the bottom of a ravine so narrow that one often 
does not see the house at all until he finds himself 
on the edge of the precipice, looking down on the 
roof of grey slate which covers the whole irregular 
group of buildings, on the threshing-floor, the hay- 
stacks, and, what there is hardly any need to mention, 
the cherry trees. It was not built there for want 
of any other place, for the Santi family are rich 
contadini, and own quite a large extent of beautiful 
hilly country. Lucia, as her picture shows, is more 
very sweet looking than very pretty. Though she 
is pretty, too, with her bright black eyes, always 
ready to brighten into a smile, and her dimples, and 
her shining white teeth, which look all the whiter 
contrasted with her brown skin. She lives on the 
Modenese side of the confine, (for I ought to have 
said before that I'Abetone is just on the border where 
the two states join,) so the people on the Tuscan 
side call her " Lombarda," and regard her with no 
very friendly eyes. It is strange what a mortal dislike 
there is between the Tuscans on the confine, and their 
Modenese, or, as they call them, Lombard neighbours. 

20 Roadside Songs of Tuscany. 

People living not a mile apart speak of each other 
as foreigners, and the stories that each nationality- 
tells about the other are enough to frighten one. I 
remember at one time there was a priest at the 
Abetone church who came from Fiumalbo, five miles 
off, and he seemed to be a very good man ; but 
when I tried to induce an Abetone girl to go to 
his church, and hear him explain the gospel, as he 
was in the habit of doing on Sunday morning, she 
replied, in a tone of mingled contempt and bitterness, 
that she could not see the use of going to church 
to hear ''that Lojjtbard/" 

But the mountain people have a great faculty of 
glorifying their own particular little corners, however 
small, and despising the rest of the* world. What 
the Italians call the patriotism of the campanile. I 
remember once when Pellegrino Seghi, the singer, 
brought us a present of a fine trout which he had 
caught in the Lima, he gave it to me with the 
remark that we should find it quite different from the 
trout of the Sestaione. Though what the difference 
consisted in, or why there should be any rivalry 
between the inhabitants of two beautiful valleys four 
miles apart, I could never understand. 

But to return to Lucia ; she is married to the second 
son of old Santi, the rich contadino ; and she and her 
husband, and the other son and his wife, and the two 

The Story of Ltccia. 21 

children, live with the old people. The father, of course, 
is absolute master, and I am afraid sometimes he is 
rather a hard master to poor Lucia. She is a gentle, 
willing creature, but not very large or strong, and 
they literally " load and drive her " in a way that I 
should think cruel towards any beast of burden. It 
is enough to try any one's patience to see that poor 
Lucia walking down the steep road to the mill, two 
miles away, bent almost double under the weight of 
an immense sack of grain, stopping now and then 
to sit down and rest on a stone by the road-side, and 
when she has recovered her breath, creeping laboriously 
on ao^ain ; and I do think sometimes that her father- 
in-law might let her take the mule ; but he never 
thinks of it, and really, I no not think she ever 
thinks of it either. Long before daylight she must 
be about the farm work ; sometimes as early as three 
o'clock, when there is mowing or reaping to be done. 
For all this she receives a poor living, and nothing 
else ; she is simply an unpaid, overworked farm servant. 
She dresses in the coarse cloth which she and the 
other two women spin and weave from the wool of 
their own sheep. I must say that they have a won- 
derful taste in the making up and trimming of pretty 
fanciful aprons, which they weave with bright stripes 
of all sorts of colours, and make curious little pockets 
in. And the linen is bought of other contadini, who 

22 Roadside Songs of Tuscany. 

raise and spin flax, and exchange it for the wool of 
Le Motte. So Lucia is clothed without spending 
money. Her head-dress, the only thing wanting, is 
supplied in a curious way. Once every two years 
a man travels through those mountains, buying up 
the hair of the women and girls. Lucia has beautiful 
coal-black hair, as fine as silk, and she sells it to him 
for a cotton handkerchief, worth (possibly) a franc ! 
He probably sells that hair for thirty or forty francs. 
I told her that I thought she made a bad bargain, 
and she answered with her usual bright smile, " I 
can go to church without my hair, but I cannot go 
without my handkerchief." She is exceedingly fond 
of hearing songs or stories, and took a particular 
fancy to the ballad of the Samaritan woman, w^hich 
I used to sing to her. The story of how our Lord 
met that woman when she went to the well for 
water took a great hold of her imagination, because 
she was in the habit of going to the well every day 
herself. About that time a pedlar came along who 
sold little books and coarse lithographs of sacred 
subjects, and we bought a good many and gave 
them to the neighbours. Lucia could not read, so 
the books were of no use to her, but we gave her 
her choice of the lithographs, and she chose a head 
of our Lord. When it was in her hands, she kissed 
it many times over with great devotion, and then 

The Story of Lticia. 23 

said to me, her eyes shining very brightly, as they 
always did when any very bright thought came into 
her mind, — 

"I wish He would meet me some day; I know 
what I would say to Him!" 

"What would you say to Him?" I asked her; and 
she, much excited, and apparently thinking such a 
meeting by no means improbable, answered, — 

" I would ask Him to take me with him." 

" But," I said, " would you not be sorry to leave the 
baby ? " 

" Perhaps," she answered, "He would let me take the 
baby too." 

I asked her then if she would not be sorry to leave 
her husband ; and she grew more sober, and thought 
about it for a minute : then she said, — 

" I shotdd be a little sorry to leave him, but he is a 
young man, and would soon find another wife. If he 
were an old man, then it would be different, and I would 
not leave him. But I should so like to go away with 
the Lord Jesus !" 

"And is this all of the first story?" 
This is all ; and I am no less sorry than you there is 
no more : — yet, here, short and uneventful as it is, you 

24 Roadside Songs of Tuscany. 

have the record of a whole Hfe, and of its love, such love 
as was allowed to it. Is the reader shocked at Lucia's 
readiness to leave her husband, if only he did not miss 
her too much, for another Love ? Have we here the 
proved mischief of religious enthusiasm, thinks he, making 
us despise our earthly duties? 

Not so ; look on it with what Protestant and practical 
mind you may. Lucia's ' desire to depart and be with 
Christ ' is in no wise enthusiastic, — nay, in this vivid 
phase it is only momentary, and a new idea to her, — the 
consequence of Francesca's singing the Ballad of the 
Samaritana, and of the happy possession of the gay 
lithograph. It had not been in the least a part of her 
life, before, — no manner of discontent nor desire had 
defiled that life — or exalted. Her mind, so far as I can 
read it, is, in its nobleness of submission, like that of a 
graceful and loyal animal of burden. I have just been 
teaching the children at our village school, Bloomfield's 
verses about his ' Bayard.' 

Ready, as birds to meet the morn, 
Were all his efforts at the plough ; 
Then, the millbrook, with hay or corn, 
Good creature, how he'd spatter through! 

I left him in the shafts behind. 

His fellows all unhooked and gone; 

He neighed, and deemed the thing unkind, 

Then, starting, drew the load alone. 

The Story of Lucia. 25 

And compare my own notes on the Serf horse of the 
railway station.* Like minded, in many respects, is poor 
Lucia, — and, in such likeness, far more to be reverenced 
than pitied. 

Neither, in the slight hold which her heart takes of her 
domestic state, is she to be thought of with blame. Do 
not think, refined lady-love of happy husband, that she 
is incapable of happiness like yours ; neither think you, 
passionate lady-love of poet lover, that she is incapable 
of your yearning, or distress. But — first of all things — 
she has been taught alike to forget herself, and subdue 
herself ; she is a part of the, often cruel, always 
mysterious, order of the Universe ; resigned to it 
without a murmur — without a reproach — without a prayer 
— except that her strength may be as her day: an 
absolutely dutiful, absolutely innocent, unflinchingly brave 
and useful creature ; — while you, most of you, my lady 
friends, are flirting and pouting and mewing — as if the 
entire world had been made for you, and, by you, only 
to be pouted at, played with, or despised. I heard of 
a rich and well educated girl, but the other day, sick, no 
one of her people guessed why, — nor she neither, poor 
girl : but she was falling into a dangerous and fixed 
melancholy, simply for want of something to do. To 
have embroidered a handkerchief for Lucia, and sent it 

* I forget where ; but will give reference in next number, having a 
word or two more to say about it, here irrelevant. 

26 Roadside Songs of Tziscany. 

to her, for once, without cutting her hair off in exchange, 
would have been singularly medicinal to the invalid. 

For the rest, — Lucia is really a great deal prettier than 
she looks at the well-side ; for Francesca had to bring 
her down to Santa Zita's level in that particular, and 
there is no record that Santa Zita was the least pretty, 
or had any distinction whatever above other girls except 
her perfect usefulness and peace of heart.